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A lot of these figures are coming from a study conducted by Deloitte and Beelinelabs: Tribalization of Business Study

How are companies measuring success? (in order of prevalence)

  • Greater awareness (50%)
  • Number of new ideas (43%)
  • More referrals (25%)
  • Increased sales (25%)
  • Others…

Biggest obstacles to making communities work (according to survey respondents)

  • Getting people to engage
  • Finding time to manage the community

This is an interesting point emphasised by the presenters. “Getting people to engage” implies that you are trying to get them to do something you want them to do, which belies the true dynamics of communities. Finding time to manage the community is similar, in that if you are getting the funadementals right, a lot of the work in managing a community will be done by the community itself.

How companies are incorporating communities:

  • Usually managed by marketing department, not a job for interns, take it (and resource it) seriously
  • 58% of survey respondents are spending less than $50,000 on community management
  • Investment in community building is relative, $50,000 may be ample if the fundamentals are right

Takeaway #1: Communities are about delivering game-changing results

  • Communities can increase revenue per customer dramatically i.e 50%
  • Communities will increase product introduction success ratios
  • Communities amplify everything you do – increasing effectiveness and decreasing costs

Takeaway #2:

(missed this one, was too busy twittering, sorry)

Takeaway #3: The need for new management thinking

  • Mismatch between community goals and associated investments
  • Major gaps between community goals and what is being measured
  • Communities have to combine with major talent initiatives
  • Communities will transform most business processes. (You can start communities without changing the way you work, but eventually it is going to impact on the way you work)

Takeaway #3.5 : The worst practices enjoy wide adoption

  • The build it and they will come fallacy
  • The let’s keep it small so it doesn’t move the needle phenomenon
  • The not invented here syndrome (especially applicable for newspaper and magazine publishers – people already have a vibrant social network on facebook, myspace, bebo, they do not want to rebuild networks on your site. Engage people where they are.)

Early predictions

  • Many community initiatives will continue to fail
  • Communities will eventually transform the role of the the CMO
  • Early adopters will force industry-wide changes
  • Companies will find out how to build predictable communities

Prediction #1 for publishing industry: Have your community cell-phone ready
(*Based on data from Deloitte’s “State of the Media Democracy” Survey, 3rd Edition)

  • A third of US consumers are using their cell phone to entertain themselves, over half of Millennials
  • Almost 50% of consumers, 40% of Boomers, and a surprising 35% of Matures are interested in ease of access to product information via product bar code scanning on their cell phone/hand-held
  • Although a very small percentage, almost 5% of every generaiton considers cell phone advertising as being the MOST influential form of online advertising

Prediction #2 for Publishing: Media will never travel alone

  • In order to optimize subscriber and ad revenue potential, media companies must create new product development and advertising strategies
  • Package of channels around content, not separate and distinct, but integrated, convergent

Prediction #3 for Publishing: You will need to provide the full capabilities of the digital media menu

  • Customizable interface
  • Personalized content
  • Personalized recommendations
  • Extensive content selection from all sources
  • Sophisticated content search
  • Active/Passive viewing
  • Free/Ad supported option
  • Supports multiple platforms
  • Same menu on each platform
  • Transfer content license across platforms
  • Integrated cross-platform builling
  • Purchase, rental, free w/ads
  • Off-line viewing
  • Single integrated sign-on
  • High speed, real-time streaming
  • High reliability
  • [Wow, that’s a lot to be ready for!]

Key message: “Social is embedded in everything.”

Advertisements

NOTE: This started to be a very long post, so I’ll split up into chapters.

Some notes from the Buliding Online Communities seminar on Day 1…

Dynamics at work in communities

  • Let people behave the way they are hard-wired by evolution to behave: in tribes and social groups
  • People will spontaneously form communities whether you are involved or not
  • The community will do your work for you if you align yourself with them in the right ways
  • The more CONTENT you have the more members you will get.
  • The more MEMBERS you have the more CONTENT you will get.
  • The better you match CONTENT and MEMBERS to MEMBER PROFILES the more MEMBERS and CONTENT you will get.
  • The technology infrastructure of the community is important
  • The social infrastructure of the community is more important
  • The easier it is to do TRANSACTIONS the more MEMBERS you will attract.
  • Communities work because they bring value to the users. The job of companies who want to build (and possibly monetise) communities is to work out how to align their business goals with what community users are trying to transact/do/achieve.

What are the human motivations making this happen?

  • People want to connect with other people
  • People want to help and be helped – it’s a reflex!
  • People operate either in one of two frameworks: social framework and market framework
  • Success happens within a social framework. Switching to a market framework screws up the dynamics of your community

 Reasons companies use communities:

  • Amplify word of mouth
  • Canary in the coalmine – an early indicator of customer service issues
  • Market research
  • Long tail sales
  • Idea generation
  • New product Devleopment
  • Employee communications
  • Reputation management
  • Customer service

Which areas of the company typically have communities under their control (in order of prevalence):

  • Marketing
  • Public Relations
  • Produc development
  • Customer Service
  • IT
  • Sales
  • Employee communications
  • R&D
  • Finance

I am heading to bed to grab three hours snooze before getting up at 2:30am to watch the Inauguration live. (Curse Australia and it’s proximity to the international date line!)

So, instead of a thoughtful, considered blog post, you get literary sadmasochism, courtesy of Write or Die!, a  friendly little web app that punishes a writer for not making their word count.

The idea is to instill the would-be writer with a fear of not writing. We do this by employing principles taught in Introduction to Psychology. Anyone remember Operant Conditioning and Negative Reinforcement?

Negative Reinforcement “strengthens a behavior because a negative condition is stopped or avoided as a consequence of the behavior.”

Consequences:

  • Gentle Mode: A certain amount of time after you stop writing, a box will pop up, gently reminding you to continue writing.
  • Normal Mode: If you persistently avoid writing, you will be played a most unpleasant sound. The sound will stop if and only if you continue to write.
  • Kamikaze Mode: Keep Writing or Your Work Will Unwrite Itself

(Thanks to The Book Oven for the heads up)

Overnight, Authonomy site administrators posted a response to the criticism on the forum:

This will be another free feature of the site. It certainly isn’t about exploitation. It won’t be compulsory. It is part of the authonomy toolkit. Like forums, messaging, RSS feeds, watchlists etc., we won’t be forcing anyone to use these features, but if you want to, then they’ll be there. For you.

Read the whole post here.

My initial thought is that if HarperCollins really are introducing the POD option simply as another feature of the site which adds value for its members, why bother to go to the expense and effort of building your own solution? Why not simply partner with an existing service, such as lulu.com, which is bound to be more efficient and less costly?

Bren MacDibble alerted me on Facebook to  some grumblings about HarperCollins’ Authonomy site.

Authonomy participant, Alexander McNabb, fought his way to a top 5 ranking on the site, spurred on by the promise that each month HarperCollins would read the Top 5 ranked manuscripts. What he got was not what he expected.

But the HC review of my book (next to the gold star on the book page) was slapdash and odd. And many other writers who’d got to the top of the ‘greasy pole’, as some called it, got the same feeling. Now, over 25 chart-topping reviews, five months, into the exercise, HC has not asked for ONE full read from a writer whose book reached the top, let alone taken anything further to any degree.

Yesterday, HC sent me a note offering me the chance to put my books up as POD (Print on Demand or Publish on Demand) books on authonomy. Soon, according to the email, all books on authonomy will be available as POD books but for now only ‘a few early adopters’ have been offered the opportunity – and a ‘gift’ of the first 10 books free.

For those who’ve not discovered it yet, Authonomy is HarperCollins UK’s social networking experiment for authors. Authors can upload all or part of their manuscripts to an online community. The best ranked submissions, based on the community’s votes, are read by HarperCollins editors. Members also have  chance to converse and swap critical feedback.

I’m not a member of Authonomy and am certainly not in a position to judge whether Alexander’s account is accurate. But regardless of whether HC editors are reading full manuscripts or not, the move toward POD sales of members’ books is disquieting.

My best friend‘s favourite adage is “It’s all about managing expectations.” HarperCollins have clearly encouraged certain expectations among aspiring authors flocking to the site.  Authonomy’s tag line is “Beat the Slush” which holds out to authors the promise of catching the attention of publishers who are seeking fresh new talent. In the original media release that accompanied the announcement of Authonomy, HarperCollins stated:

For aspiring authors the site is both a new route to publication with a leading publishing house and a genuine base from which to build a long-term following online.

Authonomy also reinforced this expectation on the site itself, both in the FAQs and in its own “HarperCollins response” thread on the forum:

We thought this would be obvious, but perhaps we need to spell this one out: Our editors _do_ browse the site looking for manuscripts that meet their requirements and if we like something we follow up directly. (To pre-empt the sceptical who seem to doubt everything we say – yes, we’re in dialogue with a number of authors from authonomy).

HarperCollins have at no point promised any author any outcome at all, other than to read the most popular content posted to the site. But all of these messages create a very strong expectation: that Authonomy was set up as a pathway to publication for aspiring authors.

If it’s true HarperCollins will now be offering members the opportunity to sell their work to the community via print on demand (presumably for a fee, or by ceding some rights and sales revenue), members would be justified in feeling their expectations have been betrayed. Many Authonomy members have posted their own reactions on the site’s forums. Here are a few:

“Authonomy has moved from potentially innovative to concretely exploitative.” Richard P-S

“Slow-moving slush pile is one thing… but captive market and preying on our desires to be published is another thing. It’s just cruel. Lulu already exists… and at least you know what you’re doing when you sign in there.” macdibble

“If I wanted to POD, I’d have gone (as I think Diane said) to Lulu by now. I don’t. I thought that, no, was led to believe that authonomy was a genuine effort to create a peer-reviewed, community based filter for publishable writing. And by publishable, I don’t mean POD.” alexander

I will emphasise not all responses from Authonomy users on the forums are negative ones. For balance, I recommend you read through the threads yourself to assess what the reaction has been, but to me it appears the majority of users (at least those bothering to voice their thoughts on the forum) are feeling misled.

At the heart of this anger and disquiet in the Authonomy membership is HarperCollins’ failure to understand online communities. Authonomy has all the trendy social networking bells and whistles. It’s got well-trafficked discussion boards and user-generated content. But social networking platforms at their most vibrant cede control to the community, they don’t (in fact can’t) hoard it for the platform developer. (Which is why Facebook is having trouble monetising itself) Authonomy users came to the site because of an expectation they were sold by HarperCollins. Having built up a successful community, those users don’t now wish to be told by HarperCollins to do or be something else especially when it’s transparently about making money for HarperCollins. Or, as put by an Authonomy member:

‘Hidden agenda’? How about a rollout plan that hasn’t been shared – an intent to create a site in phases without sharing with, or consulting, the people that populate that site? How about misrepresenting the site to those people as you do your rollout? What does that make you? alexander

I wonder what HarperCollins’ answer will be?

Just a quick fillip… here is what WordPress tells me are the top searches that lead visitors to this blog:

iPod TouchTop Searches

itouch books,  itouch ebook reader,  itouch reader,  pdf reader for itouch,  books on itouch

Well, there you go!

Alphabet SoupI’ve been too busy with Clarion South to be able to write longer posts, so here’s a round-up of a few interesting tidbits I’ve seen around the interwebs lately.

Winnie the Pooh to the Rescue
Apparently a Pooh sequel is in development. PersonaNonData quotes a Times article: “Michael Brown, for the trustees who manage the affairs of A. A. Milne and E. H. Shepard, said that he had been hoping to give the green light to a sequel for a very long time.” This intrigues me since I was fairly sure A. A. Milne’s works entered the public domain in 2007.

Self Publishing Continues to Grow
Martyn Daniels over at Brave New World comments on the continued rise of self publishing as an option for authors finding it hard to be published. It may be cheaper and easier than ever before. But watching my members’ experiences with POD and self-publishing at QWC, it seems the only ones making money out of it so far are the service companies Daniels mentions, like Authors Solutions.

Canadian Wine Meet Canadian Content
Mark at Index//mb has a nifty marketing idea: pair Canadian books/authors with Canadian wines. Mark, Australian Coriole Wines did a brilliant promotion using exactly this idea a few years ago with Adelaide poets. Poetry and poet bios on the labels, attractive limited edition half-cases with royalties to the poets, and even “Poets in the Vineyard” events with readings and music. I hope Canadian wineries can follow the example!

Do publishers still dream of electric books?
Brian Joseph Davis, guest blogging at the Globe and Mail, has a short, sweet with Soft Skull‘s Richard Nash about the state of publishing.

There are two fixed points in the cultural economy of books; the writer and the reader. Everything in between is up for grabs. And everything in between will need to earn its piece of the action by providing valuable services to writers and readers. Publishers especially have shown little regard for readers and most will need a radical change in culture in order to create a strong enough service culture.

So folks in a 2019 publishing office will be connecting writers and readers with passion, elan, humility and respect. Or not at all.

Kevin Kelly has a fascinating piece on The Technium about the ways we create and interact with things “as if” they are real, propelling metaphor towards reality.

In this way the role and power of metaphor is rising in our culture. Our modern digital world is a metaphoric world. We make things real by first constructing them as a metaphor, an “as if” type.  Then we slowly deepen the metaphor, adding more layers of meaning and realism, until metaphor slowly passes whatever invisible barrier lies between the real and fake, and it becomes “is” — it becomes “real.”  Pinocchio is at last a real boy, earning the love of his mother.

This got me thinking about some of the more energetic efforts of fan communities, for example recreating Star Trek sets, costumes and even producing fan television series. The ease of distributing this “as if” content online attracts love and attention by fans of the fans. So Star Trek fans who re-create their favourite television series in effect become a favourite television series of other audiences. The metaphor becomes real.

New MatildaMy decidedly awesome brother, Ben Eltham, has published an excellent round up of New Matilda‘s recent essay series on Australian culture.

Your Cultural Policy Has Expired
by Ben Eltham

He even includes publishing in his survey of cultural sectors:

It was Apple’s iPod that drove much of the massive format shift in contemporary music to the MP3. Publishers will also soon be faced by a credible “killer app” that will allow readers to download books at the touch of a pad. It probably isn’t Amazon’s Kindle, but one is likely to emerge in the next generation or two of the industrial ecology. At this point sales of whole product categories of books will plummet as the market migrates online. Of course, as John Hunter has argued, for nimble independent publishers this could prove a massive opportunity, allowing them to access much larger markets than a small print run ever could. Even so, many publishers will have an organisational issue adapting to the new paradigm, and will disappear. This could be disastrous for many Australian writers, who (as Jeremy Fisher has told us) are already doing it tough. This will particularly apply to those in marginal niches — like novelists, who will now have to either publish with small domestic independents or find rare success with international publishers. Change is never painless.

Read full article

SleepyKoalaElectric Alphabet has been silent the last two months, and it’s time to fix that.

So, one of my new year’s resolutions is to blog every day. I thought I would have blogged more over the Christmas break, but there’s something about summer that switches off my critical brain. I get sleepy and lazy, like a koala. All I want to do is watch cricket and read books. I’m absolutely certain this resolution will be broken, but it’s great to set the bar high. Now that I’ve finally gotten around to putting WordPress and Twitter on my iPhone I think it will be a lot easier to blog little and often, although I still intend to post longer, more thoughtful pieces as often as possible.

There are a heap of other new year’s resolutions, of course, mostly the usual feeble nods to better diet and exercise, but as far as this blog is concerned, there’s exciting discussion happening all over the interwebs about publishing futures and I’m keen to participate.

To start with, here are some fantastic events I’ll be attending over the next few months:

Maybe I’ll see you there!